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By Ashley Boyce, allied health world staff writer
Published: January, 24 2010
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Dentistry—Taking a closer look into this high-demand field
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Dentistry is fifth highest paid and most demanded medical professions in America today. It encompasses a wide variety of specialties all dealing with the function and esthetics of the teeth and mouth. A dentist’s job is to diagnose and treat disease, injury, and malformation of the teeth and mouth as well as perform surgical procedures like implants, tissue grafts, and tooth extractions.
The profession is vast in its understanding of various fields of medicine. Common tasks in dentistry require the use of equipment and techniques associated with radiology as teeth are routinely X-rayed to determine their internal structural condition, and anesthesiology given the frequent need to administer anethetic or sedative. The importance of dentistry cannot be overstated as it plays an integral role in a person’s overall health and the health of a community.
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What are the daily tasks of a general dentist?
A day in the life of a general dentist would involve seeing three to seven patients for one of a few reasons. Some would likely have cavities that would need to be filled. The American Dental Association (ADA) reports that filling cavities is the single most commonly performed dental procedure. This well known process involves drilling to remove the decay in and around the cavity before filling the clean pit with a metal amalgam or composite.
If a tooth that has been badly damaged by decay, a dentist may be required to fit it with a crown. In most cases a pre-fabricated crown won’t suffice and one has to be custom made. This procedure involves multiple visits to the dentist. After preparing the damaged tooth by removing decay and shaping it with a file to accommodate the crown, the dentist makes a mold that replicates the shape of the original tooth. This mold is sent out to a lab where the actual crown is made of one of several different materials. The most common today is porcelain fused to metal (PFM). There are some variations on this procedure depending on the extent of the damage to the tooth. Sometimes a foundation must be created out of composite materials if large portions of the tooth are missing.
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In the event that decay has reached the root of the tooth, root canal treatment would be necessary. This procedure involves measuring the diameter and depth of the tooth’s inner canals and using special instruments of corresponding diameter to clean out the decayed soft tissue from inside the tooth. A specially designed microscope is used to confirm that all canals were accessed and all pulp had been removed.
Dentists are also responsible for educating patients on home care and preventative maintenance to help avoid the progression of tooth decay or other dental ailments.
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More and more general dentists are being called upon to perform various types of cosmetic dental procedures such as tooth whitening, inlays, and veneers.
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